Thursday, September 18, 2014

Tomato Jam with Honey and Spice

Here you see that last of my garden tomatoes, sniff-sniff.  I had almost five pounds of the red, luscious beauties that needed to be used while before they went bad.  Tomato Jam to my tomatoes rescue!  Seriously, folks, this stuff is so delicious.  Sweet and spicy at the same time.  This is a really upscale and fabulous alternative to that condiment in a squeeze bottle called ketchup.  Thick, jammy and wonderful. Think Christmas gifting!

I used some beautiful, local honey for this project since I wanted to bring the best out of my summer labor growing those tomatoes.  The Tomato Jam was a such a great success and I can see opening a jar of this on a cool fall evening and serving it with meatloaf or grilled hamburgers.  I'm sure it would taste wonderful on roasted chicken or just about anything really...sandwiches, hot dogs, roasted potatoes, cheese platter appetizer, you name it!

What didn't fit into my canning jars I used to top of some smoked gouda that I had left from my Cherry Tomato Bruschettas. So good!

This is a real-deal canning recipe so you need to have sterilized jars and lids.  If that strikes fear into your heart here is a wonderful website for first-time canners.  If you still aren't sure, then simply place the jam in jars and keep in the refrigerator for about a month or so (if it lasts that long).  

Honey and Spice Tomato Jam

Note: My yield was just slightly over 4 half-pint jars

8 cups of finely chopped tomatoes, about 4 pounds or so
16 oz (about 2 cups) local hone, possible
1/2 cup freshly squeezed lime juice - about 3-4 juicy limes
1-1/2 tablespoons sea salt
1 tablespoon freshly grated ginger root
1 fiery red chili, seeds and white membranes removed and chopped very fine
2 teaspoons red pepper flakes
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
4 half-pint canning jars with rings and lids. 

Combine all ingredients except balsamic vinegar in a low, wide, non-reactive pot such as stainless steel. Bring to a boil over high heat and then reduce temperature to medium high. Stirring regularly, cook the jam at a low boil until it reduces to a thick and sticky jam. This takes anywhere from 1 to 2 hours, depending on the heat of your stove, the width of your pan, and the water content of your tomatoes. (It took my jam about 1-1/2 hours because I did have a very wide pot so there was much more surface area for the tomatoes to reduce). 

When the jam starts to get thick, reduce the heat to medium and continue to stir. This jam has a tendency to burn at the very end of cooking time, as the sugars concentrate and the temperature level in the pan increase, so watch the jam very closely toward the end. 

When you're 15 or 20 minutes out from the jam being finished, prepare a boiling water bath in another large pot like a stock pot or canning pot. Wash jars and lids with warm soapy water.  Completely submerge the jars into the simmering water bath and boil for 15 minutes.  A canning basket or canning tongs are handy to have (Walmart).  Place lids in a smaller pan of water and bring to a low simmer.

When the jam is getting very thick do a taste test and adjust seasonings, if necessary.  Add the 2 tablespoons of balsamic vinegar and continue to stir.  Do a final taste test.  When the jam is perfectly thickened to your liking (I got mine quite thick), remove the pan from the heat and stir for 2 to 3 minutes. This helps evaporate out the last of the water and will give you a better set when the jam cools.
Remove the jars and lids from their hot water baths and place on a clean, kitchen towel.  Keep the heat on under the large pot. 

Funnel the jam into the prepared jars, leaving a 1/2 inch space at the top of the jar. Wipe rims, apply lids and rings, and process in the boiling water bath or canner for 20 minutes.

Remove jars and place them on a kitchen towel placed over a baking pan to cool. When jars are fully cool, remove the rings and test seals. If the seals are tight you may keep the jam on the shelf. Any jars that didn't seal property should be refrigerated and used in a month or so. 

Friday, September 12, 2014

Grilled Chicken Pasta with Tomato and Eggplant Sauce

As I mentioned in my last post, I have an overabundance of homegrown ripe tomatoes. I have two large baking pans on my kitchen counter filled with them. Not a bad position to be in because we dearly love homegrown tomatoes but scary when it comes to using them all before they become overripe.  This year, I added San Marzano tomatoes to my garden just so I could make tomato sauce. 

I am also growing eggplant in a container on the patio for the first time. It's a small variety called "Little Fingers".  I just started harvesting them this past week. They are so cute!  Since I just watched The Hobbit, Desolation of Smaug, the can see a dragon's head in the stems :)

I have many other eggplant recipes bookmarked, but the first one I wanted to make was this tomato and eggplant sauce to take advantage of all of those ripe tomatoes. The inspiration for the recipe is here.

This sauce can be used for chicken or fish alone, pasta alone, or for a combination of both as I did.  Even if you're not fond of eggplant, I think you will still love this recipe.  The eggplant adds just enough flavor but not so that it's overpowering. And, if you need further coaxing, eggplant is very healthy!  It's loaded with fiber, vitamins and minerals and is very low in calories. 

When I asked my husband how if he enjoyed the recipe, he responded "We can have this anytime!".  High praise, indeed :)  This weekend, I'm planning on preparing the same sauce to serve over grilled salmon. 

Grilled Chicken Pasta with Tomato-Eggplant Sauce

Adapted from Cooking Scout

4 servings

This fast and easy sauce makes a delicious topping for grilled chicken and fish. It is also wonderful over pasta.

4 boneless skinless chicken breast halves, pounded to a uniform thickness of about 1/2 inch thick
1 pound of pasta of your choice
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
4 large garlic cloves, minced
2 tablespoons chopped fresh oregano
3 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
2 teaspoons salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper
2 cups unpeeled eggplant, trimmed and chopped into 1/4-1/2 inch pieces
4 cups (I used a little more) plum (or regular) tomatoes, trimmed and chopped into 1/4-1/2 inch pieces, along with their juice

Brush chicken with 1 tablespoon of the oil; rub with one minced clove of garlic, 1 tablespoon each chopped oregano and parsley, 1/2 teaspoon of the salt and 1/4 teaspoon of the pepper. Cover and refrigerate for 1 hour or up to 8 hours. If you don't have access to the fresh herbs, you may substitute dried herbs but reduce to 1 teaspoon each.  If you have Mr. & Mrs. Dash Original seasoning it also makes a wonderful seasoning for grilled chicken. If using dried seasonings, also rub the chicken with oil before seasoning. 

Microwave chopped eggplant, in large microwave-safe bowl with 3 tablespoons water, covered, for about 3 to 4 minutes or until crisp-tender.  Drain excess liquid.

Cook the remaining 3 cloves of minced garlic in 2 tablespoons of olive oil in large skillet preheated over medium heat for 30 seconds or until fragrant. Increase the heat to medium-high and add the chopped tomatoes, eggplant and remaining 1 tablespoon oregano, 1 tablespoon parsley, 1/2 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon pepper. Cook over medium-high to high heat 5 to 8 minutes or until eggplant is tender and sauce is slightly thickened. Can be made 1 day ahead. Cover and refrigerate. Reheat before serving.
Heat a large pot of water to boiling. Add 1 teaspoon of salt and cook pasta of choice (I used Capellini or Angel Hair pasta) according to package directions.

Oil grill grate and heat grill. Grill chicken, covered, over medium heat or coals for about 3-4 minutes on each side or until no longer pink in center, turning once. Allow to rest for 5 minutes. 

Place one chicken breast per person on a bed of pasta and spoon tomato-eggplant sauce over the top.  Sprinkle with a garnish a freshly chopped parsley and enjoy!